Sustainable development: climate change

OECD Observer

Fears that neither the political will nor the mechanisms exist to combat the problems posed by climate change emerged strongly at a panel on sustainable development and climate change held as part of the OECD Forum 2000 in Paris on Tuesday.

The issue of why developing countries should be expected to restrain or reduce their output of carbon emissions that lead to the greenhouse effect was the centre of the discussion with speakers pointing out that many developed countries were failing to set an example.

Cecilia Brighi of the TUAC warned that trade unions, while sympathetic to moves to mitigate the effects of climate change, needed a more reliable picture of the impact on world employment.

“Workers fear for their livelihood”, she said.

Sergio Trindade, former UN Assistant General for Science and Technology, argued that series of gaps existed in the debate on climate change, not the least of which was the gap between the recognition that it was a big international issue and a domestic non-issue. There was a similar gap between central processes and national processes.

Jonathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute of the United States, pointed out the contradictions in governments’ policies. On the one hand they engaged in climate negotiations, while their trade and finance ministries pursued a quite separate agenda: notably in promoting exports and investments in developing countries that would contribute to long term increases in greenhouse gas emissions.

Robert Z. Lawrence of the Council of Economic Advisors of the United States, attracted the greatest number of questions from the floor with his arguments in favour of a system that was above all cost-effective and for an unrestricted market in emissions trading, under which the “right to pollute” can be bought and sold at national level.

He said it would be wrong to have “artificial quantitative limits” which would arbitrarily insist that countries not trade beyond certain limits. In economic terms that would make it more expensive for those countries on which the limitation would be binding.

Forum 2000 OECD, June 27. Amphitheatre Diderot.

Moderator Jan Pronk, Environment Minister, Netherlands.

©OECD Observer June 2000 




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